A strong Nato, focused on Euro-Atlantic security, is undoubtedly in Scotland’s interests - Stewart McDonald MP

Later this month in Madrid, leaders of NATO member-states will convene to agree a new 10-year strategy – NATO’s Strategic Concept – to meet the current and future challenges the Euro-Atlantic community faces.

This will happen at a time when we are witnessing an illegal war of aggression being waged by Russia against a democratic and sovereign Ukraine. Thousands have already been killed or maimed. Millions have been displaced. Large parts of the country are illegally occupied and under siege, with some of the worst war crimes imaginable being committed.

A new report by the New Lines Institute and the Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights outlines Russia’s many breaches of the Genocide Convention in Ukraine. It adumbrates in painstaking detail the forensic level of both planning and execution of the Russian Federation’s crimes against our fellow Europeans, and the duty placed on signatories to the convention to prevent these crimes.

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Ukrainian servicemen fire with a French self-propelled 155 mm/52-calibre gun Caesar towards Russian positions at a front line in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP / Getty Images

If NATO leaders had been forewarned of this reality at the publication of the last Strategic Concept in 2010 – a document second in importance only to the Washington Treaty itself - nobody would have believed it. Yet here we are.

In response to the February invasion of Ukraine we have seen governments across Europe respond swiftly and with clarity of purpose. Germany has upended decades of energy and defence policy by cancelling Nordstream2 and increasing their defence spending by €100bn. By more than 60 per cent, Danish voters endorsed ending their historical EU defence opt-outs in a national referendum. Sweden and Finland ended generations of military non-alignment by applying for NATO membership.

Russia’s fresh assault on Ukraine is Europe’s 9/11. It marks a major turning point for the continent and requires all of us – my own party included – to be actively engaged in constructing a new Euro-Atlantic security order that reflects the harsh reality of a continent at war.

In my five years as SNP defence spokesperson, I have always sought to be a constructive participant in the ongoing defence debates in the UK and Europe. Whilst I believe an independent Scotland as a member of both NATO and the EU – the twin pillars of modern European security – offers our best option to enhance and contribute to regional security, so long as Scotland is in the UK, I have always sought to make a considered contribution to the UK’s security posture because that is what I believe our voters would expect. It’s why I advocate a comprehensive defence and security treaty between the UK and the EU – which may provide a productive route to repair relations with the bloc.

My recommendations for the upcoming Strategic Concept are based on three key elements: strengthening state, society, and the international system. States must always have a strong defence posture to meet the modern threat picture. Our society’s must always be resilient to a dynamic range of threats such as pandemics, hostile disinformation, and cyber-attacks. Our international system – under assault like never before – needs a renewed and robust range of rules and norms to protect our people from the misery of war, and these treaties should be constantly updated to reflect the new technologies of war.

NATO is supported by more than 70 per cent of Scots who hold a broad range of views on the constitution. A strong NATO, focused on Euro-Atlantic security, is undoubtedly in Scotland’s interests. That is why I believe it’s important that, as a party that wants Scotland to be a NATO and EU member, we show confidence and determination in the changing debate about security in our own neighbourhood. That is what I hope to offer ahead of the Madrid summit this month.

Stewart McDonald MP, SNP Spokesperson for Defence

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